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NEW CELLAR MASTER AT TAITTINGER

Alexandre Ponnavoy has officially taken over as the new chef de cave at Champagne Taittinger, taking over from the longstanding Loïc Dupont.

Dupont has been making wine at Taittinger for 30 years.

Originally from Dijon, Ponnavoy did a maters in agronomy at the Institut Jules Guyot (University of Burgundy) and ENITA (National School of Engineering in Agricultural Techniques).

Afterwards he left for Champagne where he obtained a masters in oenology in Reims.

He joined Louis Roederer where he also spent some time at Roederer Estate in California before joining the Station Oenotechnique de Champagne as an oenology consultant in 2007.

In that role he provided advice and support to more than 150 properties, dealers and partners in Champagne and abroad.

His new role at the house was announced last week at the launch of the latest release of the 2007 vintage of Taittinger’s prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne which is now being offered by merchants.

As Ponnavoy was only joining the SOEC in 2007, the wine is obviously the work of his forebear Dupont. The 2007 Comtes is just the 35th vintage produced since 1952 and as usual it is a blanc de blancs made exclusively from Chardonnay grown in the grand cru sites of Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger in the Côtes des Blancs.

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger commented: “This great 2007 vintage lives up to all expectations as soon as you open the bottle. It is the second vintage made during my presidency, when I took over with my son Clovis and daughter Vitalie. It is truly the soul of Taittinger.”

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History

Taittinger Since the very first days of prestige cuvées, two wines – Cristal and Dom Pérignon – have been left unchallenged in both prestige and pricing.

But behind them a number of prestige cuvées are each fighting for a place in the limelight. Despite the fact that the prestige cuvée of Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, has a long standing in history and a perfect track record of quality, neither the wine’s reputation nor price has ever quite risen to the level they could. The new management of Taittinger is now determined to claim the crown as the finest Blanc de Blancs prestige cuvée. The Taittinger House changed hands in 2005, when the American investing company Starwood Capital acquired the family-run company. Starwood purchased the entire Société du Louvre holding company of which Champagne Taittinger was a part. As Starwood’s main target was the hotel business they decided to put Taittinger for sale soon afterwards.

 

There were numerous bidders for the company, from Indian investors to rival Champagne Houses, who all had their eyes on Taittinger’s vineyard holdings. The deal was eventually done with a member of the Taittinger family, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, grandson of the original founder. He was able to make the purchase with the help of Crédit Agricole bank at the purchase price of 660 million euros. The family reacquisition in 2006 was a great accomplishment and a brave act from Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his descendants. Taittinger has gone back to being a core family company with both of Pierre-Emmanuel’s children, Clovis and Vitalid, working for the House. In these times of consolidation it is a refreshing change. The purchase has brought about winds of change.

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Vineyards

 A facelift of the prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne was put on the list of things to-do.

Perfect atmosphere Great champagnes are traditionally named after people. Taittinger makes no exception, having chosen to honour the history of the house and the region by naming their prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne (Counts of Champagne). To get to the bottom of the story of this great wine, I descend into the atmospheric underground cellars of St-Niçaise where Comtes de Champagne is born. Entering the oldest part, the St-Niçaise Abbey crypt, the ambiance of its 1,000 year history forces a complete silence on me. I gaze at the innumerable texts and pictures from different periods of time engraved on the soft, white chalk walls.

 

Surrounding me there rests millions of bottles of Comtes de Champagne, fermenting and maturing in perfect silence, temperature and humidity. Taittinger Cellar Master Loïc Dupont breaks the silence: “We only touch these bottles a dozen times during the years they spend in the cellar. But we talk to them every day…” The St-Niçaise abbey was destroyed in the French Revolution and the required funds for its reconstruction were never found. The Taittingers bought the ruins and built the cellars into these monumental historical surroundings. Today, the underground cellar network at St-Niçaise is used entirely for maturing Comtes de Champagne.

 

The rest of the production takes place at the modern winery facilities at Rue de la Justice. The abbey ruins and the interlinked Gallo-Roman cellar network make perfect surroundings for this sublime champagne to develop. After all, the house and the Counts of Champagne go far back in Champagne history. Great purchases Taittinger is the third oldest Champagne House. The Taittinger name, however, does not have an equally long standing in the area. The Champagne House, founded in 1732, was originally called Fourneaux. It was Pierre Taittinger who bought the estate in 1932 renaming it Taittinger. Simultaneously Pierre Taittinger, having worked as a champagne merchant earlier, acquired large plots of land in the best Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages. One of his purchases was also the historical property of Château de la Marquetterie.

 

The destructions of the First World War and the following depression enabled the purchases. He continued to take advantage of the financially challenging times after the Second World War and enlarged his empire even further. It is thanks to his wise purchases at the time that Taittinger owns today over half of the vineyards for its grape needs. The vineyard ownership has become an asset of the privileged as the prices for both the land and grapes have rocketed. Pierre Taittinger’s venture was a success from its early days. Soon, the company was moved from Mailly to the centre of Reims to an 11th century building that once belonged to the Counts of Champagne. Comtes de Champagne The origins of the Counts of Champagne lie in the 7th century feudal society. Prior to the 11th century, the Counts of Troyes had ruled but during the time of Thibault II the power shifted to the Champagne County, whose Count had his residence in Reims. Thibault II was a mighty man ranking only second to the king. However, it was during the times of Thibault IV that Champagne really flourished.

 

He arranged the famous 49-day festivities in the area that brought prosperity to the region. The reputation and export of the region’s products rose to new heights. The story of the Champagne Counts came to an end finally when the crown and the Champagne County were united as Louis X rose to power. Taittinger, owning the historical Comtes de Champagne residence named their prestige cuvée to honour this history. Birth of the Cuvée It was Pierre Taittinger who saw the great potential in Chardonnay as being the predominant grape variety in the blend. Following his instinct, he created the light and elegant Chardonnay-dominant floral and perfumed style as Taittinger’s trademark. Consistent with this vision, the Taittinger prestige cuvée was to be a 100 per cent Chardonnay wine from the best Côte de Blancs villages.

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Winemaking

Comtes de Champagne’s inaugural vintage was 1952 and it is reputed to be the first prestige cuvée Blanc de Blancs.

'With its charm and success it was able to boost the popularity of the entire Blanc de Blancs style. Cellar Master Loïc Dupont comments on the construction of the wine: “The wine comes almost 100 per cent from the Grand Cru villages of Côte des Blancs. The emphasis is on Avize and Mesnil fruit. It is a peculiar prestige cuvée in the sense that only half of the raw material for the 200,000 bottles we produce originates in our own vineyards. The rest are sourced via long term contracts.” The wine is produced in a modern reductionist style by fermenting the must at a controlled temperature of 16 degrees celsius.

 

Since the 1989 vintage, a fraction of the wine has been aged in fairly new oak barrels for four months. Loïc Dupont explains: “We do not wish to add any oak flavour to the wine but oak maturation is beneficial for the wine’s structure. Also the toasty aroma of the Chardonnay we accomplish at youth is most welcome. 20 per cent of the oak barrels are new, 20 per cent one year old, 20 per cent two years old and so on. Amongst other French oaks, we use also local Champagne oak. We are constantly developing the winemaking with trials of different oaks and toasts as well as yeast lees stirring (battonage).”

 

After bottling, the wines are transported to the Gallo-Roman chalk cellars of Saint-Niçaise to ferment and mature. The House has a policy to keep the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs on the lees for close to 10 years, which makes it deliciously wide and rich when it is brought onto the market. The wine is dosed with 10 g/l residual sugar at disgorgement and left to settle for six months before its launch. To-do list Professionals and champagne lovers have always appreciated Comtes de Champagne for what it is and the wine’s quality has been high throughout its existence. Why is it not more famous or expensive then? There are numerous reasons for this. Firstly, there is the quantity. Far less of Comtes is produced than its larger rivals. The status of Cristal or Dom Pérignon, therefore, is best left unchallenged, as there is simply not enough Comtes de Champagne around to cater for everybody. Instead, Taittinger should take a strong move to conquer the premium position of Blanc de Blancs category, now shared fairly evenly between Comtes, Salon and Dom Ruinart

 

A new page was turned in the Taittinger book after the family bought back the House in 2006.

The fresh management, marketing and sales teams are dusting off old habits and listening to the markets in order to lift Taittinger’s image up to the level of its wine quality. The first product the new team wanted to give a facelift to was the Comtes. Having always been appreciated as a wine, Comtes has so far not been marketed or perceived as a luxury good. Now, the packaging and advertising are being reworked with the help of Marketing Manager Dominique Garréta, who brought with her branding expertise from the cosmetics industry. As a part of the brand construction work, the company decided to make significant price increases at the beginning of 2008.

 

This took the market by surprise but the timing was in accordance with most Houses’ price increases. The increases were done to tame the accelerating demand for Comtes and to position its image at the right level compared to the competition. In contrast to its competition, Taittinger has not launched a line of older vintages or late-disgorged champagnes. Due to the old management’s views on champagne’s limited ageing capacity, there are no great reserves of older vintages.

 

The new management has also turned this habit around by keeping back larger stock of current vintages. All in all, it has been fascinating to see the change of course at this traditional Champagne House. I first visited it in 2005 and a lot has changed since then. The early signs are more than encouraging as the family seems to be nurturing the brand wholeheartedly. Their task is made easier by the existing top quality of the wines. It is a wonderful asset when a superb product is intact and one needs only to polish the image. 

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16 different wines with 123 vintages

1 official sellers in 1 countries

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Taittinger  has news

NEW CELLAR MASTER AT TAITTINGER Alexandre Ponnavoy has officially taken over as the new chef de c  more ...

12d 6h ago

 Philip Tuck / Master of Wine, MW (United Kingdom)  tasted  2 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  3 wines 

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2002 (Magnum) Very similar to the bottle but, for me, more complete and everso slightly more development and complexity. This seems more developed but also seems to have the balance and structure to keep, but there is a lovely nutty brioche character here.  Very fine. 19

22d 1h ago

 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  67 wines 

Champagne Magazine's The 100 Best Champagnes -tasting day II - best Rosé's and Blanc de Blancs'

1m 5d ago

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  25 wines 

The world's greatest champagne fair Grand Champagne 2018 was bubblier than ever – great champagnes, master classes and of course people!! Make sure not to miss this next year in Helsinki!!!

1m 6d ago

 Pia Petäjä, Wine Lover (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  12 wines 

Tasted some of the latest vintage champagnes - Taittinger 2012 was superb!

1m 8d ago

 Valtteri Malmivirta, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  17 wines 

A blind Champagne tasting is a good way to spend Saturday evening with friends.

2m 11d ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  25 wines 

Upon 2018’s arrival, I had a few resolutions I set for myself, but only one that relates to what you are reading right now: to keep current with my wine tasting notes. 


I thought about it, and came up with a simple solution: to write up three notes a day.  Seems easy enough, right?  Ten to fifteen minutes a day, and I could have myself 1000 published wine notes a year.  The consumed bottles are there, trust me.  Well, January has almost come and gone, and I still need to resolve my resolution.  Work and family have not left much time on the table.  So here is my attempt to get current with January, and start my resolution in February.  I know I will be in a big hole very quickly, as our Grande Fete de Bourgogne from February 3-9 will see an enormous amount of great Red Burgundies get consumed. 


My first great wine weekend of 2018 was in Los Angeles, where the most magical weekend occurred thanks to The Rev.  This was no ordinary weekend, as The Rev finally got married after 57 years of that single life.  Congrats again brother!  And The Rev doesn’t have ordinary friends either, including a band of merry wine collectors that flocked together all weekend amongst his starry friends. 

4m 21d ago

 Richard Juhlin / The number One champagne expert in the world, Pro (Sweden)  tasted  1 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  9 wines 

1985 Romanée-Conti / My only 100 point red wine was this masterpiece in Jeroboam with my friend Philip Ng in Singapore a few years ago. In regular bottle perhaps just a tiny bit less unreal but still the most perfect beautiful red wine there is.

5m 2d ago

 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  4 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  37 wines 

The 100 Best Champagne -day 5 with Prestige Cuvées.

5m 16d ago

 Richard Juhlin / The number One champagne expert in the world, Pro (Sweden)  tasted  2 wines  from  Taittinger . In a tasting of  32 wines 

Vintage 1976 / A giant crop of ripe grapes yielded eshy and extract-rich champagnes that remind of 1947s and 1959s, but still do not quite match up to those years of greatness. Quite often, one can nd an earthy and smoky undertone in the taste through the oily structure. This vintage year is one of the best developing in the last ten years, and today this is one of my favorite vintages to open at home and enjoy in large, buttery sips. Louis Roederer Cristal, Dom Pérignon, Billecart-Salmon, and Salon are all delicious wines, which managed to avoid this very hot year’s distraction. Most enjoyable is still the Venoge Des Princes and the inimitable Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. 

5m 19d ago

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